June got away from me, and before July is gone, too, I thought I had better write my promised conference wrap-up. Now that both BookExpo America and the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference are (as they say) in the book, I thought I’d blend them into one post that contrasts and compares my experiences.
The Real People ~ One of the reasons I have put off writing this post is because there are so many people I want to thank and shout-out to, and I don’t want to forget ANYONE . I was feeling so guilty that I actually started writing down names at ALA, but even that got unwieldy and I know I am missing people. I will say, though, being able to reconnect – ever so briefly – with so many of the folks I met at last year’s Kidlitosphere Conference made the Book Blogger Convention and ALA extra special.
I got to hang with some of the crew I met through Booklights – Susan Kusel, Pam Coughlan, and Ann Neely. Whenever I saw Michelle from Galleysmith her timing was exquisite. Just when I needed a pick-me-up, I got an enthusiastic “hi” and “how are you?”
I can’t tell you how many times Tricia Stohr-Hunt (Miss Rumphius Effect) and I were literally crossing paths in between exhibits. We saw each other in the aisles in DC than than we see each other at home, and we live only 50 minutes apart!
I had to go to DC to finally meet Anne Marie Pace and Kathryn Erskine – who live in Charlottesville! And all the way to New York to meet author Sarah Sullivan who lives in Charleston, WV, where I spent my teen years and went to college.
But even with seeing lots of people, there were still folks I missed — like Abby (the) Librarian (among others) — whom I still haven’t met! I was going to create this fancy schmanzy slideshow – and even bought a camera just for conferences – but you have to USE it to get pictures, and I wasn’t very good at that either!
In terms of feeling like you’re talking with people, ALA wins hands down. I love the energy at BookExpo and I see a lot of people, but it just seemed more frenzied. At ALA the staff in all of the booths are far more personable, too. Every booth I went into, I felt welcomed and we talked books. At BEA, if you aren’t there for an appointment or aren’t ready to write a purchase order, the reps are looking past you to the next person.
The Famous People ~ I’m going to keep this one short and sweet. There were lots of authors and illustrators, and some we saw everywhere (Mo, Jon Scieszka, and Lane Smith come to mind). I loved meeting Grace Lin and Mitali Perkins, two of my heroes! Meeting many of the DC Kidlit Book Club at Tami Lewis Brown’s was amazing … as was meeting National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Katherine Paterson. Last but not least, when Harriet Ziefert learned I was looking for easy readers and picture books that could double as easy readers, we spent AN HOUR talking books and early reading.
At BookExpo there are two places to see authors and celebrity authors: in the Autographing Corral or in the booths. At ALA, authors sign only in the booths. I like that better – I also like that there are fewer celebrity children’s authors. Don’t get me wrong, there are children’s authors who are celebrities, but it is because of what they wrote or drew, not because they were an actor first.
The Books ~ At BookExpo America, all of the books are free. The authors sign and give away books in the Corral or in the booth, and you can also find Advance Review Copies (ARCs) being given away. At ALA, the ARCs are free, but finished copies of books must be purchased ($5 for paperbacks; $10 for hardcover), regardless of whether or not you are getting an autograph.
I thought I would mind that, but I didn’t. It made me more selective in what I purchased which isn’t a bad thing, and I still came home with plenty of books. I could have come home with more from BookExpo America, but I was very selective this year. I knew I would see much of the same content at ALA, where I could load the books into my car and not pay for shipping.
The Atmosphere ~ I didn’t walk the floor for “book purposes” at BEA because I was working for a client. That said, I was far more impressed with the variety of exhibits at ALA. There were publishers I’d never seen before, and I am so happy to have found Cinco Puntos Press, Enchanted Lion Books, and the Rainbow Book Company. I am also excited about Carl Bloom and the opportunities to design a workable, long-term fundraising plan for the Reading Tub.
The one knock on ALA in the exhibits is that there isn’t a Children’s Pavilion like at BEA. I understand the logistics of that may not work, but it would make for easier browsing.
Both BookExpo and ALA have their share of folks who grab everything left and right. In both places, the 9 o’clock opening looks and sounds like a beehive, and frankly, people can be rude, even librarians. I can appreciate why the reps get testy! I didn’t notice quite as much of that at BEA this year I think, in part, because the conference was mid-week, and there were fewer citizen-bookies spending their weekend on the floor gathering books and autographs. Still, there were plenty of grumblings and you’d walk by a booth and here “excuse me, that’s for display.”
Lessons Learned ~ Yes, with every conference you learn something new. As none other than Fuse 8 (aka Betsy Bird) will attest, comfortable practical shoes are a must. Thanks to my incomparable roommate Julia, I learned that I need to bring a sheet of pre-printed labels with my company name and contact information. Applying those stickers makes it easy to enter many of the drawings (iPad!) that the vendors have going on.
I also need to bring Julia along to every conference as a good luck charm. She and I attended the Scholastic breakfast together and sat right behind Brian Selznick! Not only that, but she won the centerpiece: A copy of Selznick’s 2007 Caldecott Medal-winning book The Invention of Hugo Cabret (which she got signed), a lithograph (also signed) and a copy of Dinosaurs Of Waterhouse Hawkins, Selznick’s Caldecott Honor Book (2002).
Last but not least, I cannot recommend the Kidlitosphere Annual Conference enough! Making those personal connections for those two days is so valuable in understanding the dynamics of the children’s literature culture from a multitude of angles. It also made ALA and BEA more meaningful, because it was easy to spot friendly faces in the crowds.
Before you conclude that I think ALA rocks and BookExpo America doesn’t, let me say they both have different purposes. I love BookExpo America. It is a fabulous event, and one I have gone to for four of the last six years. Given how expensive it is (aside from the shipping), if it wasn’t good, I wouldn’t go back! If it were not for those BEA experiences, I doubt my first ALA Annual Conference would have been so wonderful. Now, to start saving pennies for next year.
Note: The Invention of Hugo Cabret cover is linked to amazon.com. Purchases made by following that link may generate income for the Reading Tub.